More internet woes this weekend, but I’m happy to say they have now been resolved. By me.
It’s a long story and one in which I can’t go into too much detail, but I thought it might of interest to you to tell you a bit about internet access in Luanda. Whether it is actually of interest or not doesn’t make much difference because I’m going to tell you anyway — it’s been the main thing on my mind this weekend so I’ve got to let it out.
Everyone knows that there is more than one way to get online in Angola. And everyone also knows that whichever one you pick, it will be unavailable on an irritatingly regular basis. Whether it’s due to a power outage somewhere along the line, or a construction worker sticking his spade through an underground cable on the other side of town, internet outages are common and when they happen people like me who don’t speak the local language have no-one to call. So, everyone for whom being connected is important has at least two ways of getting online, so that when one fails you can switch to the backup method.
I’ve actually got three ways of connecting. Sort of.
Our main feed is via an Ethernet cable to the modem, so all we need to do is connect that to our wireless router and we’re away. This main feed has a redundant connection in case of outages, so normally it’s pretty reliable. In addition to this I have my own backup via a 3G USB Modem from Unitel, the main carrier.
The Unitel modem looks like a USB memory stick, and you can plug it into the port of your laptop, install the connection software and you’re away. There’s no contract. Instead you buy a scratchcard, call the number on the back, enter the code under the scratch-off panel and you get a month’s usage. I found it surprisingly easy to set up, considering. The USB default setup is fine for a single user, but I need to share that connection with the rest of the house, so I’ve invested in this:
I found this little router on Amazon and it’s been really great at keeping us online despite Luanda’s best efforts to chuck us off. It can manage both the main feed and the 3G modem as a backup. The automatic failover feature doesn’t work because of the way the connection is set up, so I have to switch manually, but it’s not a big deal. The big benefit is that, because the in-house network is wireless that setup remains unchanged each time there’s a connection switch, so while I have to fiddle with the router at least I don’t have to go round reconfiguring all our laptops, iPhone, iPads, and Blackberries.
As I was ordering it, Amazon’s recommendation system threw another little box of tricks under my nose:
This is a travel version of the same thing. A bit like the My-Fi that I had in the UK, this box can take a USB modem connection and share it via Wi-Fi, all in a rechargable package that can give you up to three hours completely mobile Wi-Fi on a single charge. Yesterday I was checking facebook updates on my iPad in the car en route to the shopping centre.
Anyway, all three methods broke this weekend so we spent all of yesterday offline; an unsettling experience. But this morning in bed I had a brainwave and a few minutes of tapping away on my iPad later we were back in business. Go Me!
All in all my internet experience in Luanda has exceeded my expectations, but they were pretty low to start with.